How many managers are needed if you want a company to grow smoothly?

There is a ratio called span of control that says the most people directly reporting to a single manager should be seven. This can vary some based on the people, management systems and other factors, but it generally applies in most areas of a company.  More direct reports means the manager will have little time for other work and activities like planning, strategy, communications with outside vendors, etc.  Of course, not every manager has seven employees. Some may have only one or two.  I usually differentiate this novice as a “supervisor” not a manager. They oversee an employee or two but may not have the harder management responsibilities like planning, hiring and interfacing with other departments. They are really a manger trainee but often giving the title of manager even though they lack the skills needed.

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What must change in a company as it grows to reach larger scale?

This is a complex question, as there are many things that must evolve with growth. We break this down into the four “gear shifts” to get through the five stages of growth shown in the image below.

The numbers above are just an approximation and can vary widely by industry and company, but are guidelines.

Each stage requires very different management style, level of planning, people and risk management. These changes must be done, or the company will go sideways or fail. And often means giving up previous lessons learned and habits in the new stage.   

Raw Startups require speed, high risk and micromanagement while the product market fit is figured out. Flexibility and agility are key, and easy to do with a small organization. Fast decisions, cheap testing and rapid feedback are required as cash-flow is likely negative and time is your enemy.  The key goal is building the product and making sure it is valuable to the initial target market.

When the ...

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What kind of companies are most scalable?

Typically, product companies are more scalable than service companies because they are easier to scale and also easier to build barriers to entry around, which protects your margins from twenty clone companies. This is because anyone can hire your people and replicate most of your services. Many industries have near zero barriers to entry like real estate sales where you just rent a desk and join the MLS.  It is also possible to have service companies that are hybrids because they have some proprietary processes, products and trade secrets embedded that help create some sustainable competitive advantage.  H & R Block is a good example of this as they supply many systems for sales, tax prep and other benefits that enable the services, so an individual tax preparer has a tougher time competing.

Because scaling almost always requires outside capital too, you generally need strong margins and a large market opportunity to attract outside investors.  This means you...

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How do I know when my company is ready to scale?

To me, scaling means growth over 50% per year, which can become exponential in a few years. That kind of growth requires that a company be very developed in its internal processes and systems. And it must also have a serious and experienced management team.

Planning this growth is complex and will usually also require outside capital.  You also need complete systematization in each area of your business, not just to “Do it” but also to hire people, train people and manage those people too. So, with five departments this means four times five total procedures or systems to “do it” (i.e., sell, delivery, generate leads), hire, train and manage (by the numbers).  Or about twenty total systems. These may be simply a few pages, and I usually recommend a flow chart as a visual helps people learn and improve these as more employees join the company. 

Shifting gears as a company moves to rapid growth is very difficult, and few figures it out...

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How long does it take to prepare to become a founder?

I spent 10+ years preparing to launch my first big company opportunity at age twenty-nine. Having already started four different businesses before I finished high school, I had some basic experience and knowledge. I worked as a software engineer in my first full-time job after college. I worked on both mainframes and the first major Apple computer (Apple II). I then quickly move up the ranks to Senior Software Engineer, Architect and Vice President of Engineering by year five of my professional career.  That is exceptionally fast because I read every book available, did consulting on the side, worked long hours and had little social life.  I also had the benefit of working in a newer field (microcomputers) where no one had five or ten years more experience than me because the field was new and rapidly changing too.  I had been programming computers since age sixteen, which was rare then, so even starting my first job I had the equivalent of a couple of years full-time...

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Do you know any platform where people can study the skills to run their own companies?

Yes, I personally have created two platforms with about 40 courses total for this purpose, and a third set of courses for executive teams preparing to scale a company. There are at least 30 skills an Entrepreneur/CEO should learn before founding a company, not that they can be expert at all or even most, but all these skills will be needed on a team.

We have trained thousands of CEOs from over 40 countries at The CEO Boot Camp since the first one in 2004. This program is for aspiring and active entrepreneurs to learn what they need to become good CEOs and entrepreneurs. It has 12 foundational courses on the things required to design a business, build a product and launch. We find even very experienced CEOs do not know 50% of what we teach there. 

Learn more about our Growth and Scaling (GSP)
Certification program for Managers

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The second platform unbundles all of...

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What Are Some Key Components That Will Make An Angel Investor More Likely To Invest In One’s Startup Company?

One of the good question and very complex too. Here are my top 12:

  1. Strong CEO and Team - This is 50% as a strong team can fix everything else. And a CEO that has built and exited a company before, ideally. Young, new entrepreneurs will need a stronger team, advisers and board.
  2. Large market opportunity. Usually, $1 billion plus in 5 years.
  3. Clear market entry strategy, going after a niche (small market) and expanding into other niches or broader market after 1–2 years to make product and other infrastructure robust.
  4. Creation of barriers to entry, or sustainable competitive advantage. We teach 17 ways to do this beyond just intellectual property at CEO & Entrepreneur Training
  5. Gross margins over 50%
  6. Product sales with some data on cost of customer acquisition, conversion and life-time value (resales)

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  7. Recurring revenue from same customers
  8. A financing strategy that shows the potential step up in stock as new milestones are reached, and...
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What do the most successful businesses have in common?

This is a simple but good question, but does depend on what your definition of “successful” is, too. A lifestyle business is successful if it provides a decent living for the owner. Most freelancers, consultants and coaches are this kind of business. So are most local retail stores. They sell commodity products and services like millions of others.

To me, a successful business is one that can reach multi-millions in revenue, create jobs and has good margins for profit that can be reinvested to grow the business. This kind of business can grow exponentially and reach hundreds of millions in sales over time. These create true wealth and even generational wealth to leave to your children.  And can have a big impact on the world too.  What these businesses have in common, almost always, is:

    1. A differentiated product (or service) that provides high value to the customer compared to its cost.
    2. Barriers to entry that prevent hundreds, or thousands, of others from...
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What are the benefits of having a business mentor as an entrepreneur?

There are too many to list individually, but most come from having someone with experience. People often confuse smart with experienced and think they can do anything new well. Science and logic says this is not possible with anything complex.

Few things are as complex as entrepreneurship. Hardly anyone would read a book on flying and hop in a plane alone to fly it. Or try to climb Mount Everest alone. But everyone thinks they can build a new business for some strange reason. As a result, we have an 85% failure rate of new businesses. Ones with coaches and mentors greatly outperform because they avoid the hundreds of common mistakes and pitfalls, some of which can be fatal to a business. These companies where the CEO and executives use coaches even outperform the S & P 500 (mature companies) by a wide margin. They are working on constant improvement of the team, which makes all the critical decisions. And this reduces turn-over, challenges people and gives them career growth...

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What is the important quality or trait to be successful in business?

I see the question “What one quality must an entrepreneur have?” and I never answer it because it is a dumb question. Listing one would be imprudent, as any entrepreneur needs many qualities to be successful. No one will ever make it on a single quality, and I would not want to mislead people.

Here is my list of several that I believe are all necessary, not optional, to create a significant business:

  1. Raw intellect to do critical thinking and analysis so they can make data driven decisions
  2. Management experience to hire, fire, coach and manage people. I do not recommend new college graduates start a company without getting some of this experience first.
  3.  Flexibility and open mindedness to listen to all input and weigh it appropriately based on that person’s relative experience in that area.
  4. The commitment and resilience to work through hard times. This means emotionally, mentally, financially, etc. Success is never a straight line, and almost every company will...
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